Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6
  • Broad range of engines to choose from
  • Plug-in hybrids offered in petrol or diesel form
  • Massive performance from the AMG cars

There’s a decent range of powertrains in the E-Class Saloon, from frugal diesels to 600hp petrol V8s. 

Diesel engines 

The bulk of the line-up goes to diesel, unsurprisingly, with a four-cylinder 2.0-litre motor that made its debut in the E-Class kicking things off.

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
E 220 d 194hp, 400Nm 7.4secs 146mph
E 300 d 4Matic 265hp, 550Nm 6.3secs 155mph
E 400 d 4Matic 330hp, 700Nm 5.1secs 155mph

The E 220 d is much smoother and quieter than its predecessor. There’s plenty of punch for most, but it can feel a little wheezy at times when asked to work hard. The pedals are light and responsive, and the automatic gearbox’s decisions are well judged – choosing whether to use the engine’s torque or to change down a gear effectively when you want to build up the pace.

For those wanting more power, the E 300 d uses a more powerful 2.0-litre unit or you can have the four-wheel drive E 400 d powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine.

Petrol engines

Taking entry-level in the line-up is a 2.0-litre petrol named the E 200. There’s also an interesting option in the form of the E 450. This is one of Mercedes’ very latest straight-six petrol engines, and it offers really smooth, powerful operation. It’s certainly fast, but it’s not so brutal or noisy as an AMG model.

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
E 200 197hp, 320Nm 7.4secs 149mph
E 450 4Matic 367hp, 500Nm 5.0secs 155mph

Two plug-in hybrids to choose from

Uniquely, Mercedes offers the E-Class with a choice of two plug-in hybrid powertrains – one with a petrol engine, badged E 300 e and one with a diesel badged E 300 de.

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
E 300 e 320hp, 700Nm 5.9secs 152mph
E 300 de 306hp, 700Nm 5.9secs 149mph

These two cars are separated by only a couple of hundred pounds in terms of list price. Both can travel above motorway speeds on electric power alone, and both are capable of more than 30 miles on a full battery charge. This means they’re ideal for those with short commutes – if you can charge at home and at work, you might be able to make it through an entire week without having to start the combustion engine at all.

The two cars are more different to each other than you might expect. The petrol-powered E 300 e feels almost underpowered, despite its higher on-paper performance – when the petrol engine cuts in it feels strained, with the revs quickly spiking if you ask it to get a move on. The transition between petrol and electric power isn’t as smooth as it could be, either.

The diesel hybrid feels more muscular and significantly more relaxed than the petrol, with a smoother transition as the engine cuts in. And with diesel’s natural proclivity for low-range torque and excellent cruising ability, it’s a great match for the electric motor. Where the motor excels at running around town, the diesel’s absolutely ideal for longer cruises, providing very strong fuel economy even with a depleted battery.

Neither hybrid is quite as well-resolved as the BMW 530e – but the E 300 de is, for the moment, unique in being the only diesel plug-in hybrid on the market, making it an interesting proposition for high-mileage drivers who still want to benefit from the low company car tax afforded to PHEVs.

Powerful AMG models

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
E 53 4Matic+ 435hp, 520Nm 4.5secs 155mph
E 63 4Matic+ 612hp, 850Nm 3.4secs 186mph

At the other end of the E-Class spectrum are the Mercedes-AMG E 53 (formerly E 43) and E 63 performance models, powered by a V6 and V8 engine respectively. Both have four-wheel drive systems that deal with the power effectively in everyday driving, and both pipe artificial engine sound into the cabin – which, actually sounds quite pleasant.

Choose either of the AMG models and you’ll have a fast, four-wheel drive saloon that sounds evocative – whichever petrol engine you choose. The E 53’s 3.0-litre straight-six is sweet to drive and no poor relation to the E 63 S and its V8 unit, proving eager and producing a wonderful, if slightly synthetic, six-cylinder howl at the top end and a menacing burble at the bottom.

It’s a great mix of performance and everyday usability, offering performance when you want it and the ability to make laid back, wafty progress when you don’t. Its fuel economy isn’t much off the V8 car though, if you plan to avoid bigger fuel bills.

The E 63 S uses a 4.0-litre V8 that brings serious muscle to shrug off the two-tonne weight in an angry-sounding manner. Characterful doesn’t quite cover the barrel-chested V8 squeezed into the engine bay – it’s not the most tuneful noise in the world but it’s certainly loud and exciting to listen to.

Despite packing a pair of turbos the E 63 S offers razor sharp throttle response and hardly any lag when you press the throttle pedal. The super quick nine-speed automatic gearbox helps here, which has a spooky ability to be in the right gear at all times.

Handling

  • A good steer but better handling rivals available
  • High grip from two-wheel drive, even more from 4Matic
  • AMG cars are a real blast on a twisty road

The new E-Class is very competent in the corners, but like the C-Class, its priorities are skewed more towards comfort than handling. A Jaguar XF is more fun to drive. 

The steering is precise, feels pleasingly light at parking speeds and weights up nicely the faster you go, but it never really tells you much about what the front tyres are up to.

The variable ratio steering system helps the E-Class feel a little more agile on winding roads, too, but it can feel a little disconcerting at first. You do notice a sudden increase in rotation as the wheels begin to turn more sharply as you apply more lock, rather than feel like a gradual increase in response.

The E 220 d comes as standard with conventional coil springs. But air springs – a technology normally only found on high-end luxury cars – are available as an option, and are standard on higher-spec versions.

Toggling through the drive mode selector on the console changes the stiffness of the air springs. If you want to get anywhere remotely quickly you’ll need to engage Sport mode to sharpen up the throttle response, reduce the amount of body roll and weighten up the steering. That said, given the relaxed nature of the E-Class, driving a little more gently in Comfort mode suits it better.

The two-wheel drive models’ traction is excellent and this is only improved in all-wheel drive 4Matic cars. 

Mercedes-AMG models noticeably sharper

For the ultimate in E-Class handling you’ll want either of the AMG-prepared cars, the E 53 and E 63.

The former sits halfway between the standard car and the V8 super saloon and as a result its handling can feel a little confused.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class on the road

While the steering is very reactive it doesn’t offer much in the way of communication, and in the softer driving modes there is still a degree of bodyroll to contend with. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system also favours understeer when the limits of grip are reached.

The E 63 however is much less of a compromise, with quick and accurate steering and flat handling even when pushed hard. Its all-wheel drive system feels considerably more rear wheel-biased, with a balanced feel in corners that slips in controllable oversteer when pushed.

This model also features a controversial Drift Mode which sends more power to the rear wheels for massive slides when conditions allow. Really, you want to save this for a controlled, off-road environment, where the consequences of getting it wrong can be removed, or at least mitigated. 

Regardless, the E 63 is a seriously impressive car even on narrow twisting roads. At times during our test it felt like a much smaller and lighter C 63, with all the agility and turn-in ability of a sports car, rather than a near-two-tonne saloon.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class rear